Turning to 2013

Celebrating New YearNow that you have survived the end of the world, I’m sure you’ve given some thought to what’s ahead for 2013. I don’t do resolutions, per se, but I do like to set goals for myself each year, so I can measure my progress. This seems to come naturally at the end of the year when I’m getting my planner organized, transferring over birthdays, appointments and more. (Have I mentioned how much I love Levenger’s Circa system?)

2012 marked my real return to writing, after I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 in 2012 Picture Book Writing Challenge. You can learn about my progress here. About halfway into the year, I learned that I probably wouldn’t be satisfied with the process of writing and revising picture books, submitting them to editors, and waiting six months or more for a yay or nay. It can take established authors 5 years or more to sell manuscripts this way, not to mention the challenges a new writer faces.

While I will still shop the picture book manuscripts I have and write those I feel passionate about, my goal for 2013 is to break into the work for hire market. Essentially, I want to develop a relationship with publishers, primarily in the education market, so I can get assignments. I’ve set my sites on a couple of SCBWI events that will introduce me to educational publishers. I’m also going to focus on submitting articles to paying and nonpaying markets in an effort to build up my writers’ resume and increase my chances. Again, I am sure this process will take a long time, but at least I’ve narrowed my focus.

I’ve also realized that I need a writing workshop to brush up on my writing skills. I took two half-day workshops this summer on creative nonfiction and writing leveled readers, but I definitely crave more. Finding the right workshop has proved tricky, since many children’s writing workshops are focused on fiction. However, I now have a few leads thanks to a discussion group I recently joined focused solely on children’s nonfiction.

On the personal front, I did run my first 10K in 2012, as well as a couple of 5Ks, including one with my Dad. I have more races lined up for 2013, including another 10K. And a few girlfriends and I have set our sights on Disney’s Tinkerbell Half Marathon for January 2014. We’re looking at some training programs and have stepped up our strength training workouts and run schedules. Oh, and we’ve already planned our wardrobe inspired by the picture below.

Have a blessed 2013 everyone!

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12 x 12 Blog Party

Today is a wonderful day to slow down and give your little ones an extra snuggle. A Christmas picture book is  the perfect excuse. If you need a recommendation, check out yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post.

As some of you know, I’ve been participating in Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge where we complete 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months. Since I write nonfiction, this has been particularly challenging. Research is very time consuming and sometimes impossible from the comfort of your own home and local library.

Nevertheless, 12 x 12 is the push I needed to advance my career as a children’s writer. Here are some 2012 accomplishments and benefits:

  • Six completed manuscripts. Four are at publishing houses for consideration.
  • One book query, which I’ll send off in January after the holiday madness.
  • One magazine article query and a few magazine submissions.
  • A new freelance gig writing leveled science articles for BirdBrain Science.
  • An SCBWI membership and a handful of events and conferences.
  • A wonderful, supportive community of writers who have cheered me on throughout.

I didn’t exactly finish the 12 x 12 goal, but I did fulfill my goal of becoming a children’s writer! I hope to continue the momentum for 2013.

If you have an interest in writing for children, Julie is preparing for 12 x 12 in 2013. Find out more, here. 

PiBoIdMo: The Nonfiction Perspective

My PiBoIdMo Notebook

It’s PiBoIdMo! In layman’s terms, that’s Picture Book Idea Month, brought to you by children’s author Tara Lazar. The challenge involves coming up with one picture book idea each day for the month of November. It’s a fun way to get your creative juices flowing and hopefully come up with a few executable (is that a word?) picture book ideas.

I have a special notebook I’m using. My friend Sheyla bought this for me when I decided last year to write for children. Each day’s idea gets its own page, so I can do a bit of research and flesh out the ideas when I have time. I already have one I’m pretty excited about. Perhaps I’ll make it my 12 x 12 manuscript for the month.

Honestly, I am hardly ever short on ideas. It’s often a case of too many ideas and too little time. I have to sift through my ideas and see which ones I can execute and which ones have a wide enough audience.

Even though I write nonfiction, I bet many of my ideas come from the same places as those of fiction writers. Here are some places I’ve found ideas:

  • Books (mostly nonfiction). My very first children’s book idea came from a footnote in PACKING FOR MARS.
  • Articles: newspapers, magazines, online. The truth is often stranger than fiction. A capybara loose in a waste water treatment plant once inspired a piece.
  • My kids. Sometimes it’s things the things they say. Sometimes it’s the way I have to explain things to them when they ask, “Why?” or “How?” Children are an endless source of inspiration.
  • Fiction picture books. Today’s idea came when my six-year-old cuddled in my lap. (He is so big!) It reminded me of the classic picture book, LOVE YOU FOREVER, which was a recent topic of discussion among some 12 x 12 writer friends. A few more things fell into place, and voila!
  • Museums and other cultural institutions. I’m a real tourist. When we visit somewhere, I take as many pictures of the exhibit signs as I do of my family. There are always interesting tidbits I can mine for ideas later. Which reminds me, I have a few pictures from this summer that I haven’t looked at…

I’m curious, if you are a fellow writer, where do you get your ideas?

12 x 12 x 12

What’s that, you might be thinking? A cube with a volume of 1728? The size of a new ottoman I’m buying? A 3D scrapbook page? Guess again.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fact that I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I do set goals, but I create them organically throughout the year when opportunities arise. Well, a once in a lifetime opportunity popped up last week: the 12 x 12 in ’12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, and I jumped on in.

12 x 12 in ’12 is the brainchild of pre-published author Julie Hedlund. Two years ago, Julie brainstormed 30 picture book ideas during the month of November as part of the PiBoIdMo challenge. However, Julie realized that she only completed one manuscript from the 30 ideas she’d come up with. Thus, a new challenge was born: write 12 children’s picture book manuscripts in 12 months in 2012.

More than 300 people have signed up for the challenge from published authors and illustrators to newbies like myself. There are tremendous benefits: an ongoing support group, opportunities to form critique groups, prizes that include manuscript reviews by published authors. We work on the honor system. No one has to post a manuscript anywhere, we’re just honest with the group about whether we’ve reached our goal for the month. Manuscripts don’t have to be publication ready, but they do have to have a beginning, a middle and an end.

For me, the greatest plus  of accepting the challenge has been a shift from “trying to be a writer” to “being a writer.” Julie Hedlund calls herself a “pre-published author,” a term I adore, and one I’ve adopted for myself. Julie’s completed books, she just hasn’t acquired an agent or a publishing house…..yet. I liken writing to running. If you lace up your shoes and get on the treadmill or track to run, you are a runner. You don’t have to complete the Boston Marathon to be a runner. Writing, like running, is a process. If you put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, you are a writer regardless of whether you achieve publication.

I’m excited about this opportunity to write the types of children’s picture books I love: activity-based science books, biographies of scientific heroes and so forth. And I’m sure by December, they’ll be at least one or two fiction pieces in the mix. At this rate, I might even be pitching agents at the August  SCBWI conference ( Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) a full year ahead of my previous goal.

Do any aspiring writers want to join me for 12 x 12 x 12? You have until Jan. 29th to officially get in the game. Have any parents, teachers or grandparents seen holes in the nonfiction children’s book market that need filling? I’d love to hear your book ideas. If you don’t want to write them, I just might.